Taekwondo Preview

American athletes have medaled at every Olympic Games since taekwondo was added to the Olympic program in 2000, winning nine total medals since the sport’s debut. Will the Olympic medal streak for USA Taekwondo continue in Tokyo?

Leading the cast of Olympic hopefuls for Tokyo is two-time Olympian and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Paige McPherson. She is the top-ranked U.S. fighter in the World Taekwondo rankings, sitting in sixth place in the female -67 kg. division. McPherson captured gold at the 2018 grand prix event in Taiwan, as well as two grand prix bronze medals in 2017. In 2019, McPherson competed at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, where she fought her way to the finals and captured a silver medal for Team USA. Towards the end of 2019, Paige took bronze at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Finals in Moscow.

The future of USA Taekwondo can be seen in 16-year-old wunderkind Anastasija Zolotic. Displaying maturity beyond her years, Zolotic became the youngest American fighter to capture a medal at a taekwondo grand prix event, capturing a bronze medal at the June event in Rome. As the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series continued, Zolotic later went on to compete at the Grand Prix Finals the last tournament in the series, capturing bronze, where she defeated the world No. 1-ranked and two-time Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones from Great Britain. Zolotic, competed at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, where she captured gold for Team USA. In 2018, she has also earned a junior world championship title and placed second at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In March of 2020, Zolotic competed at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifiers in Costa Rica, where she won and qualified her division for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, just prior to the postponement due to COVID-19. Zolotic is currently the top-ranked American in the world rankings in the -57 kg. division at No. 7.

Updated on July 17, 2020. For more information, contact the sport press officer here. 

 

Future of USA Taekwondo: Sixteen-year-old Anastasija Zolotic began competing in taekwondo at the age of 7 at an after-school program. It wasn’t until 2017, however, when she earned a gold medal at the Junior Pan American Championships, that she began to realize she had a future in the sport. In the fall of 2018, Zolotic traveled to Argentina for the Youth Olympic Games, and despite suffering a broken hand in her first match, she persevered to win the silver medal. In June 2019, she became the youngest U.S. fighter in history to medal at a WTF Grand Prix event when she earned a bronze medal in Rome. Zolotic went on to capture gold at the Pan American Games and bronze at the Grand Prix Finals. In 2020, she qualified her division for the Tokyo Games at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifiers in Costa Rica.

Looking to Keep Medal Streak Alive: The U.S. has medaled in taekwondo at every Olympic Games since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 2000. American fighters have won a total of nine Olympic medals – two golds, two silvers and five bronzes.

Taekwondo Evolution: Taekwondo made its debut as an official medal sport at the Olympic Games Sydney 2000, and has since reached nearly 70 million practitioners worldwide. The sport is constantly evolving, including with the recent introduction of new equipment to make for a fairer adjudication process. In 2015, the World Taekwondo introduced several new measures to increase excitement surrounding the sport, including octagonal mats, three-points for a spinning kick to the body and sensors within athlete headgear.

Paige McPherson (Sturgis, South Dakota)

McPherson, 30, looks to qualify for her third-straight U.S. Olympic team after winning a bronze medal at the Olympic Games London 2012. Throughout the past three years, she has won a silver at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, a bronze medal at the 2019 Moscow Grand Prix Finals, a gold medal at the 2018 Taiwan Grand Prix and a silver at the 2017 World Taekwondo Championships. She is ranked No. 6 in the world in the -67 kg. division.

Anastasija Zolotic (Largo, Florida)

Zolotic became the youngest U.S. fighter to capture a medal at a taekwondo grand prix event when she won a bronze medal at the June grand prix in Rome. In the past year, she has captured gold at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, she took bronze at the 2019 Moscow Grand Prix Finals where she defeated two-time gold medalist and world No. 1-ranked Jade Jones from Great Britain. She has also captured a junior world championship title and placed second at the Youth Olympic Games. Earlier this year, she competed at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifier in Costa Rica where she qualified her division for the Tokyo Games. She is currently the top-ranked American in the -57 kg. division at No. 7.

The U.S. can qualify a maximum of eight quota places (four men and four women) for the Tokyo Games.

Athletes can earn quota spots for the Tokyo Games in several ways. Athletes with a top-five World Taekwondo Olympic Ranking in their division following the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final will qualify for the Tokyo Games. The highest-ranked athlete in each weight category at the World Taekwondo Grand Slam Champions Series will also qualify, as well as the two top-ranked athletes per weight category at the Continental Qualification Tournament in March 2020.

· Olympic Games: July 23 – August 8, 2021